Belfast Telegraph

Small firms in Northern Ireland 'could lose £150,000' because of collapse of Carillion

By John Mulgrew

Independent subcontractors and small businesses in Northern Ireland could be left with debts of up to £150,000 amid the collapse of infrastructure giant Carillion.

Hundreds of jobs are now at risk in Northern Ireland, after the listed company entered liquidation yesterday.

It has three major contracts with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), worth around £35m a year, for maintenance.

Alfie Watterson, executive officer for the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group (SEC) in Northern Ireland, said the liquidation of Carillion will cause a "ripple and a wave which goes right through the industry".

Speaking about one electrical sub-contractor, which could lose out on £150,000, he said: "They are a medium sized company.

"It's £150,000 in this climate... you don't have the same margins (nowadays). That can equate to £1.5m in turnover. There is always a fear. The industry is rife with poor payment practice.

"Carillion are a major public sector contractor, and a client of the public sector. They had a 120 day payment schedule, when government guidelines are within 30 days."

Gavin McGuire, Northern Ireland director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), commented: "Where we would be, the FMB is based right across the UK, and we work with 8,500 companies.

"We are getting information as to how many of our members are affected by this... considerable numbers in that situation.

"Here in Northern Ireland, I probably haven't had as many calls about it. We are finding our members doing other work.

"But where you have specific areas - subcontractors such as electricians and plumbers, then there are definitely problems."

Mr McGuire said it's likely others are set to be hit by Carillion's financial collapse, and face an uncertain future.

He said: "The guys come in to do the work for them... short term, you are going to see problems where that is.

"Will the work get picked up by someone? It probably will.

"The challenge is, with ongoing contracts that Carillion is involved with, people may have walked off site, and don't know where they stand with that."

The NIHE has warned that "there may be some disruption to routine services in forthcoming days". But it's understood Carillion is still continuing to carry out its maintenance contracts. A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said last night: "Carillion contracts with the Housing Executive continue to be in operation. As the Housing Executive advised yesterday, there has been some disruption to services, and we apologise for the inconvenience this has caused tenants.

"We have been working with Carillion and other contractors to ensure that heating and repairs are carried out, especially given the cold weather spell."

Carillion employs approximately 500 staff here, with around 230 working for the NIHE. Across the UK, around 20,000 employees now face an uncertain future.

The union Unite said that, following a meeting with staff on Monday, members were "instructed to go home" when they came to work.

Belfast Telegraph

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